Post-doctoral Researcher

AI-enabled camera traps for protecting elephants (1)

We’ve been so used to hearing about the downsides of AI that it’s easy to overlook the potential benefits. A pioneering new project has developed an AI-assisted wildlife camera in order to protect endangered wildlife better.

The University of Stirling teamed up with Dutch tech start-up Hack The Planet to come up with this innovative device. In terms, the AI assists the camera in actually understanding the images as it snaps them.

The cameras are designed to be able to recognize different species of animals, and humans too. They can identify moments of animal-to-human conflict that might involve poaching or other activities that put wildlife in danger. The cameras are set up on trails, like any normal wildlife camera. However, if they sense these moments of conflict, the cameras can alert the necessary guards.

It’s all pretty clever stuff. The system was successfully piloted in Gabon, central Africa, in an area with human-wildlife pressures. The cameras were able to identify elephants with ease and were able to alert the researchers effectively, despite being in a remote region with no access to the internet.

“Real-time data from smart cameras and other sensors could revolutionize how we monitor and protect the world’s most threatened ecosystems,” says Dr Robin Whytock, Post-doctoral Researcher at the University of Stirling. “The advances made in this study show that real-time data could be used to make better decisions during time-critical situations.”

During the pilot in the Gabonese rainforest, five camera systems took more than 800 photos in 72 days. 217 photos of elephants were taken. The AI model achieved an accuracy of 82% in recognizing elephants. Rangers received an alert from the system within seven minutes on average.


All this is great news for both wildlife and humans. Both people working with the animals and locals. Despite a worldwide ban on ivory, tens of thousands of elephants are still killed every year. There are just over 400,000 elephants left in the wild. These cameras may just help in the fight to save them.

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